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Who Moved My Cheese?


This is a little book by Spencer Johnson M.D. a parable of sorts, that I love. You can view a lovely little video that tells the story in animation, at:

In a nutshell it is about four little beings; two mice, Snip and Scurry and two small 'humanoids' called Hem and Haw - who all love cheese and have a great supply of it. And to each the cheese has a lot of special meaning. It smells like home, or makes one feel cared for; it is a nurturing mother. is always there, and when they are eating away at the cheese they feel so very happy. So, every day they come and eat until they are fat and content and can eat no more.It seems like these halcyon days will last forever.

But the little beings don't notice that they are eating away at the supply and doing nothing to replenish it. And the day comes when there is no more cheese. Oy a broch! What a catastrophe. What will they do all day? How will they get more food? They have no currency; maybe they will starve! They are panic-stricken. Suddenly they lose their sense of joie de vivre and the feeling that their lives are predictable and controllable. They scurry around looking for cheese but they can't find any. They lose their energy and develop stomach pains from worry and some days they just feel like covering their heads with blankets and staying in bed.

Each of the beings is a little different in some important ways. Hum, who tends to be pessimistic, feels depressed. Why has this happened to him? What will he do? He holds his head in his hands and he sighs a lot. He can't imagine how he's going to get through the rest of his life. His world has changed irrevocably and he doesn't want to live this way. Haw is also terribly afraid. But his fear drives him to run around looking for solutions. Since he can't find any, he trembles with foreboding.

But Skip and Flurry, the two mice, are different. Naturally energetic, they frantically look for solutions. Perhaps there is more cheese somewhere else? Or maybe they will find other food they will like? Maybe this and maybe that, they don't know what but they keep coming up with ideas. Despite their fear, they're a little energized - this certainly is a big challenge!

They set about exploring their options. Most of the time, they waste lots of energy. But looking for solutions makes them feel more alive and releases endorphins into their blood which gives them a good feeling. Their brains haven't been so activated for years.

Voila. Eventually, they find a new source of cheese.

Haw, predictably, hums and haws and tries to get help from other places, but all is to no avail. Everyone is in shock and struggling for answers. Eventually, he too, overcomes his fear and inertia and starts to explore new possibilities.

I'm sure you can see the moral of this lovely story. When Covid-19 hit us, it came like a bolt from the blue. There we were, going about our lives more or less content with our predictable lot. Suddenly our landscape changed absolutely. Suddenly our pastimes were curtailed. As we feared contagion from our friends and neighbors, we stopped going to lectures and cancelled invitations to dinner parties. The shops were shuttered and people we knew, who had invested money in this and that, lost their money and planned incomes. Stuck at home in isolation, we could no longer help our children with the grandkids, and many took to working at home. Since not everyone had big houses; many families were squashed day and night into small places where they got on one another's nerves and there was a rise in the family stress index. Family gatherings for the chaggim, became a thing of the past. My choirs, which were my beacons of light and pleasure, were cancelled and have not met again to date. I wonder - are they too a thing of the past?

Nothing is the same. Some souls like Hem, have withdrawn into themselves and become sad, inert, despondent. The problems are overwhelming. They lack the physical, mental and economic resources to cope with the new situation.

Others, have rallied and become resourceful in recreating new realities.

I keep hearing of amazing solutions. I joined a discussion group on Zoom and meet weekly with a great group of women who have discussions for which we do our own research and give presentations on all kinds of topics - from art to music to transport and to trees. My daughter has Zoom "dinner parties" with friends, in which they dress up and share good wine and good food. A friend participated in a school class reunion and this has led to interesting spin-offs.

A wonderful organization called Classrooms without Borders, hosts interesting films and post film discussions on topics of Jewish interest. And Harif provides a similar service with films about the Jews from Arab lands - all for free. Tel Aviv screened its annual film festival and a subscription cost very little. I'm sure there are many more organizations providing free lectures and movies of interest. And of course, there are also great opportunities provided by Telfed, ESRA and other organizations. And I believe that many of the ESRA English tutors have mastered the Zoom technology and have been able to keep up with their coaching commitments to their students through the pandemic.

Sitting and watching programs on the computer or tablet is not very comfortable. But there are other things to do too. I know gym teachers who give daily classes on Zoom and in my building, a group of women meet on the lawn, for yoga sessions. Another friend and I watch cooking shows and we have learned to work with yeast for the first time and to bake impressive cinnamon buns and challot!

We've learned to shop online; though it's hell to master the Hebrew documentation. And we pay car license fees and municipal taxes and deal with Bituach Leumi electronically. It has become necessary for us to master so many new technologies that we couldn't bother with before. And we surprise ourselves (and our children) at how well we are able to live up to the challenges.

If one is sick or struggling to make ends meet, it is difficult to think freely and creatively. But life thumbs its nose at our difficulties. There's much to the saying, "Man plans and God laughs" - and there is no doubt that we're living through a period of turmoil and change that is putting great stress on our coping resources. Still whenever we conquer a little fear or work past an obstacle, oh boy - it feels liberating! It doesn't help to long for the good ol' days. When somebody moves our supply of cheese, we have to get busy finding more. And make it cheddar, please!



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Sunday, 21 July 2024

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